It seems to be a difficult question to answer; do you watch the movie first or read the book first? You can look at it either two ways, read the book, and be disappointed when it’s not as good as the movie. Or watch the movie, and have a Hollywood forced idea of how people and characters should look, then read the book as it will go into more detail. I think in this case, I am glad I read the book first! After reading the book, and then reading the storyline for the movie I was saddened. However, I don’t want to write an opinion on the movie, since I did not see it!
Overview: At the same time Adolf Hitler was attempting to take over the western world, his armies were methodically seeking and hoarding the finest art treasures in Europe. The Fuehrer had begun cataloging the art he planned to collect as well as the art he would destroy: “degenerate” works he despised.
In a race against time, behind enemy lines, often unarmed, a special force of American and British museum directors, curators, art historians, and others, called the Monuments Men, risked their lives scouring Europe to prevent the destruction of thousands of years of culture.
Focusing on the eleven-month period between D-Day and V-E Day, this fascinating account follows six Monuments Men and their impossible mission to save the world’s great art from the Nazis.
My Opinion: Robert Edsel does a wonderful job of outlining events in order, as well as keeping the heroes accounts together. The history, facts, and personal accounts can be credited to extensive research done by the author and his peers. This is also noted in the eight page bibliography at the end of the book listing books, articles, public collections, private collections, interviews, and personal interviews with the few alive Monuments Men. The book is filled with official military correspondents, personal field reports, and personal letters written home to loved ones. Mr. Edsel’s research and passion to tell the entire story does create an issue for him, the story is much bigger than just one book. He focuses on the Monuments Men efforts in northern Europe, and will be creating a subsequent book for their efforts in Italy.
“I am proud to introduce them to you and to tell, as best I can, their remarkable stories.”
Robert M. Edsel (The Mission Pg. 2)
I thought the book was very well written and only a little bit difficult to understand, but that was due to my lack of knowledge on military procedures, and of the Second World War. I hate to say it, no matter how much I love history, it was never my best subject! However, Edsel does a great job of giving you all the information in a clear format, with maps in the beginning, as well as short bios of the main characters. So as you come upon new information, you could always divert to the front of the book! (A listing of the other characters is in the back as well.) I have to agree with other reviews that the first part of the book is slow, and hard to understand. Nonetheless, Edsel had a big plate on his hands; how else could you introduce close to ten main characters from different backgrounds, as well as the politics that is happening before the war. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who loves history, military insights, or in general a good treasure hunt.
“But the lasting impact of his bitter reign is best measured in ephemeral ways; fifty million loved ones who never returned home from war to rejoin their families or start their own; brilliant, creative contributions never made to our world because scientists, artists, and inventors lost their lives to early or were never born; cultures built over generations reduced to ashes and rubble because one human being judged groups of other human beings less worthy than his own.” Robert M. Edsel (Heroes of Civilization Pg. 401)